Your family is over your complaining

Do you come home from church and complain? Belly ache about the frustrations of ministry, a difficult church member, or your crazy schedule?

Complaining about church is nearly inevitable—however, I recommend you do it as little as possible, especially because…:

  1. Complaining reinforces your negative thoughts. Venting to your spouse will not make you feel better, or not for long. It can even cause you to feel worse. (See this.)
  2. Complaining creates negative feelings in your family toward the church. When I was a pastor, of course I complained from time to time. However, I did try to keep in mind that my husband had relationships with these people, too. If I ranted and raved too much, I knew it would have a negative impact on those connections. I’ve seen cases where pastors’ children have not only left the church but left their faith behind because of how the church treated their father or mother.
  3. Complaining reinforces your feeling of helplessness—and theirs. They can take no action which will improve your situation. In fact, the opposite is true: if your spouse were to step in, it would create a triangle that will not benefit your ministry. A defensive spouse can never do any good.
  4. Complaining doesn’t build your relationship with your family members. In fact, it can be detrimental to those relationships. Trust me: if you complain a lot, you are not a delight to spend time with.

So what do you do, when you feel the need to vent or complain? Check this out:

  • Find a neutral party. When you need help thinking through a challenging church situation a coach, colleague or friend can hold that space for you without the major relationship impact of venting to family.
  • Strategically assess what to say to your spouse. You can share your own experience and thoughts without complaining. The conversation will be more productive, I guarantee it.
  • Consider what the complaint gives you. Can you turn your complaint about the other person into a request to them? If the youth director turned up late and caused a problem with the youth retreat, you can set up a conversation and request that she be in time in the future (and follow up next time). What opportunity is hiding in the complaint? Be curious and creative.
  • Celebrate the positive things at church and share those with your family. We often put more energy into responding to the negative than we do the positive.
  • Instead of complaining, pray for the person or situation you want to complain about. In some cases, simply mentioning the name to God may be all you can do. That’s enough.

Questions for reflection: Am I in the habit of complaining about church at home? What positive habit can I substitute?

Blessings,

Margaret

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